With limited and fast dwindling funds, Wendy (Williams), a young woman whose only steady companion in life is her dog Lucy, is attempting to drive from Indiana to Alaska where she hopes to make a fresh start, hearing “they need people.” Unfortunately, a run of bad luck strands her for a time in a remote Oregon town. Wendy’s car breaks down, she’s arrested for shoplifting, and worst of all, she loses Lucy. The rest of her stay is spent tracking down her beloved pooch, and plotting her next move.
Directed by Kelly Reichardt, who helmed the excellent indie “Old Joy,” this deceptively spare, melancholy character study packs an emotional punch in its 80-minute running time. The usually gorgeous Williams gives a fearless performance as Wendy, somehow transforming herself into a mousy, almost androgynous figure. As her restrained, unadorned performance unfolds during the film, our sympathy for this vulnerable but curiously resolute soul grows; we alternately ache with her at every setback, and rejoice at every small act of kindness. “Wendy and Lucy” is the kind of work we see too seldom nowadays: a small film with a big impact.